In previous whitepapers, we have discussed the importance of an IT department. After all, Information Technology continues to play a crucial role in the development of every facet of society, let alone businesses.

However, IT is not the core competency of most businesses. This means that many businesses tend to divert their attention away from IT, as they are confident that their IT department “just works”; or worse, they accept mediocrity because they think it is the norm.

In many cases, these businesses are technically correct. An IT department will still function and the business will run, even with a lack of attention towards IT. However, there is a major advantage to be had for businesses that acknowledge the importance of IT, regardless of their core competency.

Ultimately, if you want to give your business a competitive edge, you must not give into the misconception that all IT providers are the same.Not only does your IT provider need to make IT their core competency, they must also be able to:

  • Keep their finger on the pulse of the dynamic technology landscape
  • Maintain a thorough understanding of the business so that IT changes can be seamlessly integrated into business procedures
  • Assess the problems facing the business so that there is a distinguishable purpose behind every IT solution

What are the benefits of success in your IT department?

Contrary to popular belief, the difference between highly profitable companies and their more mediocre competitors is actually fairly minute. While their daily operations and the services they provide may be similar, the way in which these businesses address their IT department is one of the important differentials that makes the difference.

This makes sense when you consider that the benefits of success are more than just a slightly more profitable business. When your IT department succeeds, it improves your business in a broad number of ways.

Success Motivates Staff

The simple fact is that employees want to work for a business that will reward their effort. It is incredibly demoralising to have to spend countless of one’s personal time and energy on a business without getting to experience its success.

But how does that relate to IT? If a business is encumbered by a less than successful IT department, it can result in all kinds of technical problems that directly affect a staff member’s capacity to work, such as:

  • Tasks that should be automated being performed by staff (wasting effort, time and resources).
  • Software glitches/hardware failures that staff need to navigate.
  • Outdated technology that does not meet the needs of staff, etc.

A successful IT department means the rest of the workforce is perfectly equipped to complete their tasks, which is a source of staff motivation.

Success Means Great PR

While this might not always be obvious, a successful IT department reflects well on a business’ image. For example, it is always a bad look for a business if;

  • It is subject to a malware attack that results in the leaking of sensitive customer information.
  • Its website goes down due to an increase of traffic during a significant event such as a sale.
  • Its transactional processes are unoptimised and unwieldy for clients, etc.

As technology becomes more pervasive for everyday people, your business needs to adapt. If your business is not compatible with the technology of your customers, they will find a competitor whose business is. The only way you’ll achieve that compatibility is with the help of a successful IT department.

Success Lets You Know Where You Need to Improve

No business is perfect. There is always room for improvement. A successful IT department is aware of this, and always analyses the business for any inefficiencies that can be rectified, regardless of how well the business is performing.

The worst thing that success can do is make a business owner complacent. The major advantage of success is that it highlights the business processes that are effective, as well as those that an IT department can stand to improve.

How do you measure your IT Department’s Success?

The answer to this question revolves around the structure of your business, focusing on the roles of the decision makers and the IT department. In order to obtain a full picture of success, you have to measure the efforts of both groups.

The decision makers of your business should focus on your business’ desired outcomes, the objectives that make those outcomes actionable, and the strategies that will lead to those objectives being achieved.

The IT people, on the other hand, are focused on the tangible processes that will lead to the business outcomes being met. Thus, it is important to measure your IT department’s success based on how these processes are implemented.

Every IT decision needs to solve a problem, otherwise it is a waste of time and resources. IT solutions also need to be updated regularly in order to meet the many problems that arise in the dynamic IT environment. 

However, it is important to remember that the outcomes of your business don’t change. Your business will retain objectives that IT solutions work towards (such as enhancing communication, aiding employees, automating processes, etc.), but the IT methods that allow your business to reach those outcomes change. Failing to adapt your business’ IT methods will leave your business in a vulnerable state, where what once gave you a competitive edge now has the capacity to make you lag behind your competitors instead.

One of the difficulties of measuring your IT department’s success is that there is no strict tried-and-true method. Instead of a singular algorithm that you can insert your business metrics into to empirically determine your IT department’ success, there are a series of qualitative and quantitative factors that can inform your definition of success.

However, there is a simple process that can be implemented to make the act of measuring your IT department’s success as easy as possible. There are only two basic steps, and they apply to any IT department.

Choose Your Critical Success Factors (CSFs)

Before you determine whether or not your IT department is successful, you have to define what success means for your IT department in the first place. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually very simple.

Critical success factors come in the form of goals that your IT department should aspire to. These come in different forms, such as;

Industry FactorsThe goals that your IT department needs to achieve in order for your business to remain competitive in your particular industry.
Environmental FactorsThe goals that your IT department needs to achieve in order for your business to remain adaptable in the constantly changing climate of your industry.
Strategic FactorsThe goals that your IT department needs to achieve in order for you to implement your proposed business strategies effectively.
Temporal FactorsThe short term goals that your IT department needs to achieve in order to respond to the current state of your business.

Set Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

While CSFs are proactive, as you are preparing your IT department for whatever happens to your business, KPIs are reactive. Your KPIs are a set of measurements that you will use to identify your IT department’s achievements. 

KPIs can be;

  • Finance focused (i.e. the reduction of costs, a boost in profits)
  • Customer focused (i.e. positive customer feedback, easier transactions)
  • Process focused (i.e. are other departments able to meet their KPIs thanks to the efforts of the IT department?), etc.

What are the factors that determine your IT department’s success?

There are many factors that a business owner can observe to determine the success of their IT department. Typically, you should aim for factors that best reflect the strategies and operations of your business. These will likely include the following;

How does your IT department operate?

  • How efficiently does your IT department complete their day-to-day operations?
  • Is there a direct correlation between the efforts of your IT department and any success that your business has recently seen?
  • How effective have the solutions that your IT department has implemented been?

How does your IT department respond to a crisis?

  • What is the extent of your IT department’s security measures, and are those measures effective?
  • Is your IT department prepared with contingency plans that are ready to implement in the event of an IT problem?
  • How effective is your IT department at monitoring systems for potential threats?
  • How reliable is your IT department at mitigating the effects of an IT problem after the fact?

How do the rest of your staff work with the IT department?

  • What is the extent of your IT department’s communication with the rest of your staff?
  • What is the consensus amongst your employees regarding the IT department?
  • Are there any instances where the IT department has obstructed any other departments from reaching their KPIs?

How has your IT department affected your bottom line?

  • Have you seen an increase in profit due to measures enacted by the IT department?
  • Are you seeing the full benefits of the time and resources that you have invested into your IT department?
  • How often do you have to stretch your budget or delegate extra time to compensate for unforeseen IT problems?

In Summary

Because IT is not a core competency of many businesses, there are a large number of businesses that neglect their IT department. While this will not necessarily kill a business, it will give an advantage to competitors that do acknowledge their IT department, regardless of their core competency.

The success of an IT department results in widespread benefits that create a competitive edge for the business, such as:

  • A boost in employee morale
  • Great PR that positively impacts customers
  • Useful opportunities to identify any weaknesses that can be rectified

Because of this, it is useful to regularly measure your IT department’s success. While success to an IT department is subjective, depending on the business, there is an easy way to measure an IT department’s success.

  1. Identify the factors that are critical towards your business’ success
  2. Set the goals that your IT department should be aspiring too

Once you have those factors and goals set in place, you can measure your IT department’s success by determining whether or not those goals are being met. These can be based on;

  • The daily operations of your IT department
  • How your IT department responds to a crisis
  • How your IT department interacts with the rest of your staff
  • How your IT department impacts your bottom line

Because this is a job that is both big and important, it is imperative that you seek help from our team of business analysts and tech specialists. At Synapse IT, we have the knowledge and experience to thoroughly assess your business and determine whether or not your IT department is meeting its full potential.

Contact us for a free 60 minute session with our senior consultants so we can help you use IT to make your business grow.

Hayden McMaster